The finalists for the Taste Cheshire Food and Drink Festival Sausage Competition were revealed after a blind tasting took place at the NoWFOOD centre at the University of Chester last week.
The annual event, now in its 12th year, took place on Tuesday 26th February and has been incredibly popular with butchers from across Cheshire.
There are two categories: the traditional pork sausage category and the flavoured sausage category.
Ten judges, many of whom have been adjudicating the contest for over a decade, taste-tested more than 30 sausages to dry up their shortlist.
Headed up by chief judge Steve Vaughan of Vaughan Butchers, the judges had the difficult task of assessing each sausage in a blind tasting.
Steve explained the criteria for judging: “Our judges were looking at the appearance of the sausage both pre and post cooking; they concentrate on the texture of the sausage as you eat it and then most importantly, the flavour.
“The first two categories are judged out of 5 marks and the final and most important 10 marks. Each year the job gets tougher as the standard of butchery gets stronger and stronger. These really are artisan sausages made by very skilled people.”
Gavin Matthews, one of the presenters on local radio station Dee 106.3, has been a judge for 10 years now and looks forward to it every year.
Gavin commented: “I think when I was first invited to be a judge I thought it was just a bit of fun but now ten years later I can tell the difference between a natural and synthetic skin, spot air pockets in the meat and identify when rusk hasn’t been mixed as well as it should be.
“I really enjoy this event and marvel at just how talented the makers of these sausages are.”
Taste Cheshire CEO Stephen Wundke believes this event has really raised the bar in Cheshire.
Stephen explained: “We know that competition brings out the best in people and – having been a judge since its inception when Carole Faulkner at the cheese shop started the event – the standard has, each year, just got higher and higher.
“You see that when you add up the judging sheets and we now need 10 judges to separate our finalists.
“It’s been another cracking year and our 40 judges at the festival will have their work cut out to find a champion.”
The next stage of the competition is for each of the finalists to have their sausages tasted by the first 40 people who make it to the chef’s auditorium at the Taste Cheshire Food and Drink festival on Easter Sunday, 21st April (from 11am).
After these lucky 40 people have cast their votes, the winner of each category will be awarded their prize at the Taste Cheshire Food and Drink Awards on Wednesday 24th April.
This year’s finalists are:
Best Traditional Sausage
Cheerbrook Farm Shop, Nantwich
Pen Y Lan Pork, Overton on Dee
Best Flavoured Sausage
Hawarden Farm Estate, Hawarden
(Note: there were four finalists in this category as there was a dead heat for third place!)
For more information about this event and to purchase tickets to the Food and Drink Festival, simply visit: www.chesterfoodanddrink.co.uk